29 June 2008

2001 Xiaguan Bao Yan Shu Brick

I received this sample for free with an order from Skip4Tea, a Malaysian pu'er vendor that appears to sell tea on consignment. I had ordered the 2001 raw Xiaguan Bao Yan brick, and so the cooked version from the same year does seem a fitting inclusion.

2001 Xiaguan Bao Yan Shu Brick - dry leafThe storage in Malaysia is usually rather wet, similar to storage conditions in Taiwan. In my experience, cooked pu'er that has undergone wet storage develops a smoothness in flavor, a weakening almost, or better put a sort of character change. It becomes more like aged sheng, insomuch as the storage enhances the clarity of the liquor and the sweetness and cleanliness of the flavor. The storage additionally builds similarity in that cooked tea often develops mei wei, or "mold smell", a common base aroma in older pu'ers.

2001 Xiaguan Bao Yan Shu Brick - liquor & bunnyI could smell the storage--the mei wei--even in the bag. In the wet leaf, it mingled with the woodiness of the cooked tea and it smelled remarkably like wet stored sheng. The liquor's reddish brown color mimicked aged sheng, and I began to second-guess their labeling. Even upon tasting, I wondered if my confidence that the is cooked pu'er came from my observation or from the labeling. Maybe the leaves were lighter fermented? Not a hint of pond/fish/grossness, sweet like lotus root, warming.

It didn't last long, though, only about 4 good infusions, becoming sweet water at the 5th infusion, drinkable for its physical effects but not so much for its flavor. In Kunming, I had newer Xiaguan Bao Yan shu that also lasted only 4-5 infusions, so I think the leaf itself is to blame, rather than the storage. Also, I brewed the sample in a gaiwan, though I nearly always make my shu in a thick-walled pot.

2001 Xiaguan Bao Yan Shu Brick - leaf in gaiwan

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